Walkingnorth’s 2022 Seven Days in Silverglen is a new secondary-world fantasy webtoon. (Note: I still don’t really understand the distinction between a webcomic and a webtoon.)
Tess lives in a world seemingly like the modern world. Appearances are deceiving. Tess’ world is fantasy world, filled with many folk known to us only from legend. Some, like the dryads, are popular. Others, like gorgons, are dismissed as “monsters.” This social quirk has personal implications for Tess, whose painful shyness is complicated by the fact she is a gorgon.
Consequently Tess has some interesting coping mechanisms.
Every day Tess dresses to minimize the obvious physical evidence that she is a gorgon. In conversation, she reveals only the most mundane aspects of her life, rather than quirky (and potentially alienating) hobbies. She spends every working day as a paragon of professionalism. Recognition, friendship, and reward are not her goals. Having had unpleasant experiences trying to connect with others, she strives to be too useful to fire, and as unremarkable, as invisible as possible.
One day, co-worker Mira invites Tess out for a lavish dessert. The treat isn’t a date but a bribe. The dryad has a big favour to ask of Tess. The cakes are only the first of a number of enticements Mira plans to offer. It is a very big favour.
As Tess overthinks every word Mira says, Mira explains that the autumn equinox is coming. Seasons are important to dryads and this equinox will be particularly important. Mira plans to visit her native Silverglen for the celebration. There’s a catch: if Mira returns to her native Silverglen sans partner, her time will be monopolized by helpful relatives trying to fix Mira up with someone suitable.
Tess can save Mira from this simply by pretending to be Mira’s girlfriend for the duration of the celebration. What could go wrong?
Not only does Mira’s cunning plan involve more public visibility than Tess likes, there’s the small matter of Tess’ painful, upspoken crush on Mira. Pretending to be the fake girlfriend of the person Tess covets for a genuine girlfriend would be intolerable. Therefore, there is only one possible course of action Tess can undertake: agree to the cunning scheme, then turn to the internet for advice on how to get over a crush. Again, what could possibly go wrong?
It’s not entirely clear how a secondary-fantasy world produces a civilization almost identical to ours, so I am going to try very very hard not to think about that.
On the grand scale, Mira and Tess’ world seems functional enough: no wars are mentioned, neither are riots; nobody is worrying about the forsaken baby souls Grogthar the Unspeakable (whom I just made up) took with him after exiting the highest office in the land.
There does seem to be prejudice. While Tess is highly invested in closely examining every social interaction for the most negative interpretation, the evidence suggests her current behavior is driven by painful past experience. If she’s convinced people dislike gorgons, there’s likely good reason for it.
On the other hand, one cannot help but notice that Tess spends a lot of time intensely scrutinizing Mira’s comments and actions so that she can deduce the subtext, but very little time just asking Mira to explain herself more fully. She politely lies to Mira any time Mira asks questions that get too close to subjects about which Tess is sensitive. One suspects this is because Tess has in the past gotten answers she didn’t like and reactions she liked even less.
This is how we can tell Seven Daysis a fantasy: in the real world, the obvious solution would be a frank conversation of relationship costs and benefits, and if there was a net plus, a straightforward discussion of expectations and boundaries. Excel sheets or Power Point presentations might be involved. The whole situation could be resolved in ten minutes, tops.
Sometimes I want reading material in which the fate of the Earth is not at stake. This seems to fit the bill nicely; the worst that’s going to happen is some degree of embarrassment. Being familiar with the author’s work as I am, I know there will be a payoff that isn’t “enjoying someone’s needless discomfort.”
This webtoon has one significant drawback, one due to me having noticed it early in its run. You may be tempted to archive binge Seven Days. At this stage in its development, archive binging won’t take you long.